Copyright © 2012 Lisa Harbatkin
Yesterday’s New York Times lead story, right up there on the upper right of page 1, reported that just over half – 55% – of New York City teachers eligible for tenure following their probationary periods got it this year. Nearly half – 42% – of those eligible were kept on probation for another year, the Times reported, while 3% were fired. In 2007, 97% gained tenure; in 2010, the number was 89%.
After the obligatory reference to the importance of “really strong teachers organized around a common vision,” Education Department chief academic officer Shael Polokow-Suransky told reporter Al Baker that the idea was to keep “pushing” both the teachers and the kids.
It’s way past time to focus on the real causes, the root causes, of problems in the schools: poverty and its related problems. But it’s so much easier for politicians and education bureaucrats to go after teachers and their unions.
It’s also worth noting that a significant number of the teachers investigated and called in for interrogation sessions, and possibly forced out, in the 1950s were still in training and/or were substitutes who did not yet have permanent appointments. The numbers are uncertain because of the Municipal Archives’ refusal to allow full access to the files it holds. But they appear to be large enough to suggest why tenure matters now as much as it did in the Cold War years. Without it, school administrators can fire teachers for political reasons, for union activity, or just because they don’t like them. Or just because.
Yes, teachers with tenure lost their jobs back then, as the investigations intensified through the early 1950s. But forcing them out involved more complex processes, and for the most part it was harder for the city to get rid of them.
Funny, isn’t it, how things keep repeating…and repeating….and…..
The New York Times article can be accessed at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/18/nyregion/nearly-half-of-new-york-city-teachers-are-denied-tenure-in-2012.html?_r=1&hp